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RFD Boys

Rick Coates - August 1st, 2011
With another successful Traverse City Film Festival now in the rearview
mirror, movie enthusiasts will look to the Frankfort Film Festival at the
end of October to get their film fix. The Third Annual Frankfort Film
Festival will take place at the recently renovated Garden Theater which
has been offering first-run films in Frankfort for the first time in
years.
While extensive theater renovations took place a few years ago, there are
additional restoration projects in the works. This Thursday (August 4) the
theater will host the The RFD Boys for a special benefit concert. This
legendary bluegrass group from Ann Arbor will take the stage at 8 p.m.
with proceeds going to help fund ongoing restoration efforts.  
“We have been very fortunate as members of the community have donated
valuable time and resources that have have resulted in several updates,
including the installation of new seats, a new heating and cooling system,
upgraded Dolby digital sound and the art deco tile restoration,” said
co-owner Rick Schmitt. “We are committing the funds from this concert to
upgrading the sound system even further.”

A GOOD RUN
Schmitt, a Frankfort resident and a longtime executive with Crystal
Mountain Resort & Spa, purchased the Garden Theater with his wife Jennie
and friends Blake and Marci Brooks in 2007. 
“Since opening two years ago we have successfully shown several first run
films along with independent and foreign films,” said Schmitt. “We also
have made the Garden available for private and corporate events, charity
fundraisers, wedding receptions and other events. The reception has been
so positive that we now are able to keep the theater open year round.” 
Originally built in 1923, The Garden Theater had been closed for several
years, but with the re-opening of abandoned movie houses in downtowns
becoming a popular trend, Schmitt felt it would be good for Frankfort to
revive the Garden Theater. 
“Some might think we got the idea based on what we saw happening in
Traverse City with the renovation of the State Theatre,” said Schmitt.
“But we actually started this process before they did.”
This Thursday, The Garden Theater will turn off the projectors as the RFD
Boys will take the stage. 
“These guys have been together for over 40 years and they are hailed the
bluegrass house band for the State of Michigan,” said Schmitt. “In the
last three decades they’ve shared stages with a who’s who of bluegrass and
country musicians from Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley to Ricky Skaggs and
Randy Travis, so we are excited to have them.”

BACK IN ’69
The RFD Boys played their first concert together in October 1969 while
still U-M students. Bluegrass was just starting to spread across the
country to younger listeners in those days. 
After 42 years, guitarist and lead singer Charlie Roehrig along with Paul
Shapiro on bass and high harmonies, fiddler Dick Dieterle, and Will
Spencer on banjo and dobro still find an audience for their music as they
travel throughout the country and Europe. They squeeze gigs in between
their day jobs.
“It seems just like yesterday when we had our first gig, but it was back
in1969, and none of us really had much playing on the stage experience,”
said Charlie Roehrig. “If someone would have told us way back then that
we’d still be together 40 years later, I would have never believed it.”
The reopening of the Garden Theater has had a positive impact in Frankfort
and Benzie County as a whole by attracting year round visitors. Add in the
recent opening of the Crystal Lake Art Center on Betsie Bay in the former
Coast Guard building and Frankfort has expanded its year-round cultural
offerings.
“What we are saying to people is that Frankfort is not only a great place
to visit but also to live, work and go to school,” said Schmitt. “That is
why so many people have gotten behind the Garden Theater and the Art
Center. We have great shops, restaurants and plenty of outdoor offerings
as well. We expect the addition of these cultural offerings to be further
attractions for people to relocate here.”

The Garden Theater is located at 301 W. Main Street in Frankfort.  Tickets
for the benefit performance are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. 
Tickets are available in Frankfort at The Garden Theater, Corner Drug,
Frankfort Bookstore or the East Shore Market in Beulah.  For info and to
purchase tickets on-line visit the website www.frankfortgardentheater.com.
 
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